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Hall, Mullins have concerns about snow day waivers

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Hall, Mullins have concerns about snow day waivers
By Greg Carter, WVVA Evening News Anchor / Content Manager

CHARLESTON (WVVA) – Ninth District Senators Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, and Jeff Mullins, R-Raleigh, are expressing their concerns about waiver process established by the State Board of Education for counties worst affected by winter storms.

West Virginia law requires all children have 180 instructional days per year. However, because of severe storms this winter, several counties are struggling to find a way to meet this legal requirement. Senators Hall and Mullins, who represent Raleigh, Wyoming and McDowell counties worked with local boards of education in their district and the State Board of Education to find a solution for these affected counties.

Local Boards of Education can apply for a waiver to the 180-day requirement. More important, however, is the ability to obtain waivers permitting the ability to aggregate "accrued time" – time added to a regular school day – to count as an instructional day.

"Using my home county, Raleigh, as an example, the county board really found itself in a hole due to having so many snow days. So the county board reached out to the State Board of Education, as well as me and Senator Hall for assistance,” Senator Mullins said. “On March 3, an email from the West Virginia Department of Education's legal department on behalf of the State Board of Education indicated that accrued time, which is very important to Raleigh County's plan to make up the time, would be included as a waiver option.

“However, just a few days ago when the waivers request form was released, accrued time was not offered as a specific option on the form,” Senator Mullins continued. “It does offer the ability to list other potential waivers if supported by law, but that leaves it far from clear as to whether waivers for accrued time will be permitted. What is needed is clarity to counties like Raleigh which have planned on relying heavily on the accrued time waiver."

Senator Hall echoed Mullins' concerns, saying this situation was the reason the Legislature tried pass a bill that would expressly allow accrued time to count toward the 180-day requirement. The legislation failed this time, but Hall said he hopes to be able to present a legislative fix next year to prevent the waiver issue from coming back again.

“The bottom line, though, is that we have counties such as the ones in our district which need an accrued time waiver right now to comply with the law. It was indicated they would get it, and they relied on that by setting forth a plan, but then when the form came out, it is unclear if accrued time is an option,” Senator Hall said. “The clear options that the Board is offering according to the form – having children attend school on weekends and holidays, or extending the school session into the end of June – would create all kinds of issues for our kids and their families. There are camps and vacations planned, weekend and summer jobs, and summer school, just to name a few. We are hopeful that the State Board will provide clarity on the accrued time waiver in the very near future."

Both Senators said they are hopeful this issue can be resolved to the benefit of the counties in their district.

"Senator Hall and I have great respect for the State Board and what they do. They don't have an easy job, and we think they generally do a tremendous job,” Senator Mullins said. “However, it does appear in this case there may have been some miscommunication or an error on the forms, and our hope is that we can work on remedying it so the counties can have clarity and be compliant with the law."